MILAN — Italy’s Afro Fashion Association is launching the inaugural edition of the Black Carpet Awards at February’s Milan Fashion Week, running from Feb. 22 to 28.
The association promoting diversity, equity and inclusion since 2015 and spotlighting talents of different backgrounds with an original focus on the African continent will host a gala on Feb. 22 at a still-undisclosed location, where 10 awards across five categories will be bestowed on 10 leaders of change belonging to underrepresented communities.
“Throughout my career I’ve met people and businesses challenging the perception and rewriting the history of DE&I in the country. I thought about celebrating them, because celebration is a form of representation which is fundamental,” said Michelle Francine Ngonmo, the mastermind of Afro Fashion Association and, together with designers Stella Jean and Edward Buchanan, the force behind the We Are Made in Italy, or WAMI collective, which has taken part in recent Milan Fashion Week displays.
The Afro Fashion Association boasts a database of 3,000 professionals and talents that were shortlisted into 25 finalists. An international jury will select the 10 winners across the five categories: culture, legacy, creativity, community and entrepreneurship. Talking about the latter category, Ngonmo highlighted that “diversity is often approached as charity, while in fact it is also a driver of wealth,” she said.
The focus for the seminal edition will be on Italy-based personalities, businesses and associations active in fashion, design, food, music, sport and cinema, among other fields, that have contributed to establish new cultural and entrepreneurial paradigms in the country, but Ngonmo’s ambition is to broaden the event’s reach internationally.
The event will include the projection of a video tribute to the late Virgil Abloh, a longtime supporter of the association’s and Ngonmo’s work.
The project is the result of ongoing conversations with other like-minded professionals who were drawn to the Afro Fashion Association over the years.
In addition to Buchanan and Jean, Ngonmo involved social media personality Tamu McPherson; art and fashion curator and digital art expert Gloria Maria Cappelletti; Jordan Anderson, the Milan-based journalist and creative director behind the My Queer Blackness, My Black Queerness, or MQBMBQ, digital project; art director Macs Iotti; Ghanaian-born, Italian-based designer Nana Brenu, as well as head of editorial content at Vogue Italia Francesca Ragazzi and Nss’ founder and chief executive officer Walter D’Aprile.
“Diversity is about sitting around a table and discuss to challenge representation,” of marginalized communities, Ngonmo said. “I hope this project will tear down walls and barriers and help understand the importance of forging ties and working together to write the story of DE&I,” she noted.